Maya Yoshida: Japan must learn from Asian Cup final disappointment
The four-times champions beaten 3-1 in tournament decider in Abu Dhabi on Friday
Japan captain Maya Yoshida says his side will have to take lessons from their Asian Cup final defeat on Friday, admitting it was one of the most painful losses in his career.
The four-time continental champions missed out on a record-extending fifth crown when they were beaten 3-1 by Qatar in Abu Dhabi.
Yoshida, who plies his trade in the English Premier League with Southampton, had a particularly chastening evening at Zayed Sports City Stadium. The centre-back, 30, conceded a penalty nine minutes from time to allow Qatar to go 3-1 up and effectively seal the trophy.
“Losing the final is always a difficult defeat, really painful, but we have to learn from this,” Yoshida said. “First of all, Qatar is a fantastic team and deserved to become champion today, to be honest. I have to accept; 3-1 is no excuse.
"They played well. They were more aggressive. We were too passive in the first half and, when you concede two goals in the first half, it’s going to be really difficult to come back from that.
“We tried to, but still time wasn’t enough. Especially the third goal: me, individually, it’s really tough to accept. It’s really unlucky to have the handball. But this is the result.”
Two goals down at half-time, Japan rallied after the break and were presented a lifeline on 69 minutes when Takumi Minamino finished a neat move to halve the deficit.
However, Abdelkarim Hassan’s header struck Yoshida's hand after the two contested a Qatar corner, and a penalty was awarded following consultation with the Video Assistant Referee.
Asked whether he thought it should have been a penalty, Yoshida said: “What do you think? Tell me. I’ll probably have to jump without hands.
“But the key was before that. OK, this was one of the biggest keys of the game but, at the same time, we conceded two goals at the beginning of the game, which we shouldn’t. Simple - we didn’t do enough.”
Japan will look to move on from the disappointment with a successful showing at this summer’s Copa America in Brazil. The Asian heavyweights are competing in the South American tournament for only the second time in their history and first since 1999, with Qatar making their debut. The event has been expanded from 10 teams to 12.
“We’re hugely disappointed today," Yoshida said. "Me individually and as a team, for all the Japanese people. We have to learn from this defeat. We have the Copa America and after the summer we start the qualification for the  World Cup.
“So we have to learn from this defeat and we try to use this experience for the next Copa America and World Cup qualification.”
Having made his international debut in 2010, Yoshida was given the captain’s armband shortly after last summer’s World Cup and tasked in the UAE with helping guide a team in transition through the tournament.
Yet, speaking later on Friday to the BBC, Yoshida doubled down on comments earlier in the week that the risk he and Japan's other European-based players took in coming to the Emirates would count for nothing should their national team not take the title.
“This is the mentality in Japan.” Yoshida said. “Always you have to be champion in Asia. And it’s difficult to accept. But Qatar played well, they deserve it. And especially me, I have a new responsibility through the tournament and I’m not sure if I was enough or not. I feel like I have to learn many things, too, and still I can improve.”
Updated: February 2, 2019 09:48 AM